In many ways, nobody likes to visit anyone in the medical profession, since this is usually an indication that there is something physically wrong with us. Of all medical professionals though, perhaps the one that many people most loathe visiting is today’s word – the dentist. Whether this may have to do with the overall sensitivity of the teeth/mouth and the propensity for pain, or whether people find it hard to justify the expense for such a seemingly minor area, most of us unfairly associate visiting the dentist with one of Dante’s circles of Hell. Though, given the link between oral health and overall health as well as the pain that one can encounter from not regularly visiting the dentist, dentistry has been unfair characterisation. So, let’s start the healing, and learn about this word.
Contrary to the episode of Seinfeld, “Dentites” are not a “proud (ethnic) people” at all. In the UK, studying to be a dentist not only requires undergraduate and postgraduate dental education, but also requires a commitment to continuing professional development and upholding a commitment to quality, typically spelled out by a trade association, such as the British Dental Association (BDA). The word dentist itself comes from the Latin root word dens (dent-), which means tooth, and entered the English via the French term dentiste.
Dentist – dental industry
Currently, the £7 billion dental industry employs almost 9,000 businesses and over 104,000 professionals. Classified as a slow growth industry with annual growth expectations of 1% or less, it has, in the past several years, been coming down from a revenue high in 2009-10. Much of this diminished growth and contraction is due to the fact that approximately 65% of the industry’s revenue comes from the NHS, which, as we know, has been experiencing stagnant levels of funding or even, in some cases, cuts ever the concept of austerity was introduced following the recent recession.
The first known usage of the word dentist comes in a 1759 edition of the Edinburgh Chronicle, where it is written that, “Dentist figures it now in our newspapers, and may do well enough for a French puffer; but we fancy Rutter is content with being called a tooth-drawer.” This was followed, in 1760, by a mention in The London Magazine, where a person was described as “This distinguished Dentist and Dentologist.” Finally, demonstrating that dental pain (or fear thereof) is nothing new, Oliver Wendell Holmes, in his 1855 poem The Music-Grinders, uses the cringe-worthy line, “No! Pay the dentist when he leaves A fracture in your jaw.”